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More work needed ahead of enrollment season

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Are employers ready for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or not?

Aflac funded a 2013 Open Enrollment Survey of 2,001 U.S. consumers, and concluded that neither employers nor employees are ready for the changes that will begin to hit them Oct. 1. That’s when state insurance exchanges will begin accepting applications for coverage, with many of those applications expected to come from employees now covered in one form or another by their employers. That’s also the deadline for employers to notify workers of their benefits package options.

Seven in 10 workers who responded to the survey said they had yet to hear any clear communication from their employers about how PPACA might impact their health benefits. But that makes sense, considering that just 9 percent of employers told Aflac they were “very prepared” to integrate the changes mandated by PPACA into their own benefits packages.

“At the heart of this issue is the fact that many workers will be blindsided this open enrollment season because we know they already struggle with understanding their insurance policies today, and in covering the high out-of-pocket costs from gaps in their current coverage,” said Michael Zuna, Aflac’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

“Over the next few months, these challenges will be exacerbated as employees may be more confused by changes in their policies, and face greater gaps in their health insurance coverage leaving them at risk,” he said. “With little notice, education, and coverage options to help guide and support them during this season, employers themselves may be at risk of a highly dissatisfied workforce.”

Other key findings from Aflac’s report include:

  • Four in 10 employers predict that more coverage gaps will be created once the PPACA takes full effect.
  • 69 percent believe costs to employees will increase as a result of the PPACA.
  • 74 percent of workers “sometimes or never understand everything” contained in their insurance policy.
  • 37 percent of employees say it will be “more difficult to understand everything in their health care policy” when the PPACA takes effect.
  • 28 percent of workers surveyed are “confused, worried or simply unsure about the change their employer is making to their health care coverage or benefits options due to health care reform.”
  • 60 percent of workers have not begun to educate themselves about coming changes to their benefits package due to health care reform.

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